- The U.S. Center for SafeSport leveled a lifetime ban against Olympic figure skating coach Richard Callaghan on Wednesday after a former skater accused Callaghan of sexually molesting him beginning at age 14.
- Callaghan was suspended from the Olympics in 2018 for nearly 20 years following an older allegation of sexual misconduct.
- The allegations against Callaghan have stoked comparisons to USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and skater John Coughlin, prompting questions about how Olympic-linked organizations deal with sexual misconduct allegations.
Banned from the Olympics
The U.S. Center for Safesport banned famed Olympics figure skating coach Richard Callaghan for life on Wednesday over accusations of sexual molestation.
The organization made the decision after one of Callaghan’s former students filed a lawsuit claiming that Callaghan sexually molested him when he was 14-years-old.
U.S. Figure Skating then followed suit and banned Callaghan from any kind of skating-related activity in the U.S.
Callaghan, 73, is most known for training skaters Tara Lipinski and Todd Eldredge. Notably, Callaghan oversaw Lipinski’s training when she won the gold medal in ladies’ singles figure skating during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He also oversaw Eldredge’s six U.S. national championship titles, as well as a world championship title.
The allegations were brought by former skater Adam Schmidt, who is also suing U.S. Figure Skating for inaction related to previous complaints made before his alleged molestations. The lawsuit alleges Callaghan molested Schmidt multiple times between 1999 and 2001.
“Today’s announcement is a major victory for all who’ve suffered abuses by the former legend of figure skating, Mr. Callaghan,” Schmidt told ABC News. “Now he will forever be known as the predator who delivered medals to a corrupt organization who accepted them in exchange for the safety and protection of children. US Figure Skating created that culture of abuse that lasted decades and today is the first of many victories to come in reversing that. USFS is officially on notice.”
The ban comes after SafeSport suspended Callaghan from Olympic activity for nearly 20 years after former student Craig Maurizi filed a second misconduct complaint against him in January 2018.
Callaghan has denied the allegations and was first suspended in March 2018, but he will not be able to appeal the permanent ban. According to Callaghan’s attorney, he is “subject to a lifetime ban without due process.”
In 1999, Maurizi filed his first complaint against the skating coach. The allegation, filed to U.S. Figure Skating, details the nature of Maurizi’s relationship with Callaghan, dating back to 1976 when he first began taking lessons from him at the age of 13.
Two years later, Maurizi said Callaghan began acting sexually inappropriate around him, and Maurizi said when he turned 18, Callaghan initiated a sexual relationship. That relationship allegedly continued in an on-again-off-again fashion until 1997.
“At the time, I thought the sex was consensual,” Maurizi told the New York Times in 1999. “Now, when I look back, I don’t think it was consensual. I don’t care how old a student is, whether it’s a boy or a girl, a coach should never have sex with a student. The coach is the person the athlete looks up to for leadership and to be a role model. I don’t think coaches understand the influence they can exert over students. People need to be more aware of this.”
The claims were later dismissed by U.S. Figure Skating and the Professional Skater’s Association because they had been filed more than 60 days from when the alleged abuse occurred.
Within the time-frame of Callaghan and Maurizi’s relationship, The New York Times reported at least five other sexual misconduct claims dating back to the 1980s. The claims range from inappropriate sexual comments to unwarranted sexual advances such as Callaghan exposing himself in a hotel.
“I feel finally vindicated,” Maurizi told the New York Times following Callaghan’s ban this week. “This guy’s a monster. This man has ruined the lives and careers of many people. I believe he should be punished to whatever extent is possible.”
Olympic Organizations’ Handling of Allegations
The allegations against Callaghan are the latest in a series of sexual misconduct allegations against people connected to Olympic athletes.
In 2015, USA Gymnastics broke ties with sports doctor Larry Nassar, and the following year, one of his patients filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse. In all, more than 250 women and one man accused Nassar of sexual abuse, many of his patients being underage at the times of their assault.
Nassar pleaded guilty in three different trials, admitting to the molestation of 10 accusers. The 56-year-old is now serving a federal conviction of 60 years and a state conviction of 40 to 175 to years.
In December, U.S. Figure Skating issued a restriction notice to figure skater John Coughlin in relation to unspecified allegations. On January 17, U.S. Figure Skating suspended him, and the following day, he committed suicide.
Since his death, more women have stepped forward, including bronze medalist Ashley Wagner and his former skating partner Bridget Namiotka.
SafeSport later released a statement saying it had uncovered “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”
This month, U.S. Figure Skating also released a statement saying the organization does not tolerate sex crimes.
“Recent news reports regarding allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in our sport have been heartbreaking,” the statement reads. “We support all survivors, and we encourage all victims of abuse to come forward and report it to law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”
Many, however, have criticized organizations connected to the Olympics, claiming they have been slow to act in situations involving sexual abuse.
“This should have been done in the ’90s when USFS first knew,” Schmidt’s attorney John Manly told USA Today. “It’s good news but small comfort to those Callaghan hurt. Clearly this move is in response to the horrible press USFS received in response to Adam Schmidt’s filing. You shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit to protect kids from child molesters in Olympic sports.”
Manly argued that because U.S. Figure Skating did not act in 1999 when it received Maurizi’s first complaint, it enabled Callaghan to continue coaching, thus leading to Schmidt’s alleged molestations.
U.S. Figure Skating has defended itself, saying that following Maurizi’s original complaint, it examined its procedures into reporting cases of abuse and updated misconduct policy in May 2000.
Conservatives Slam Elmo For Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19
While critics accused the muppet of promoting propaganda, CDC data shows the shots are safe and effective.
Elmo Gets Vaccinated
Conservative politicians expressed outrage on Twitter after the beloved “Sesame Street” character Elmo revealed he got vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently cleared the way for children between the ages of six months and five years to get vaccinated against the virus. The famous red muppet is three years old, making him finally eligible for the jab.
In a video shared by “Sesame Street,” Elmo said that he felt “a little pinch, but it was okay.”
Elmo’s father, Louie, then addressed parents who might be apprehensive about vaccinating their own kids.
“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the COVID vaccine,” he said to the camera. “Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice.”
“I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors, and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he continued.
Republicans Criticize “Sesame Street”
While some praised the video for raising awareness and addressing the concerns parents may have, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) quickly lambasted the effort.
“Thanks, Sesame Street for saying parents are allowed to have questions,” Cruz tweeted. “You then have Elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”
Despite Cruz’s claim, the CDC has provided ample resources with information on vaccines for children.
He was not alone in criticizing the video. Harmeet Dhillon, a committeewoman of the Republican National Committee for California, suggested that Elmo would be taking puberty blockers next.
Other anti-vaxxers claimed Elmo would get myocarditis and accused “Sesame Street” of promoting propaganda.
COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be both safe and effective against transmission of the virus, but this is not the first time conservatives have turned their anger against a friendly-looking muppet who opted to get the jab. When Big Bird got vaccinated in November, Cruz and other right-wing figures accused the show of brainwashing kids.
Big Bird’s choice to get vaccinated was not a shocker though, clips dating back to 1972 show him getting immunized against the measles.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hill) (Market Watch)
Uvalde Puts Police Chief on Leave, Tries to Kick Him Off City Council
If Pete Arredondo fails to attend two more consecutive city council meetings, then he may be voted out of office.
Police Chief Faces Public Fury
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following revelations that he and his officers did not engage the shooter at Robb Elementary for over an hour despite having adequate weaponry and protection.
Superintendent Hal Harrell, who made the announcement, did not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.
Harrell said in a statement that the school district would have waited for an investigation to conclude before making any personnel decisions, but chose to order the administrative leave because it is uncertain how long the investigation will take.
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second in command at the police department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.
In an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo said he did not consider himself in charge during the shooting, but law enforcement records reviewed by the outlet indicate that he gave orders at the scene.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state senators on Tuesday that some officers wanted to enter the classrooms harboring the shooter but were stopped by their superiors.
He said officer Ruben Ruiz tried to move forward into the hallway after receiving a call from his wife Eva Mireles, a teacher inside one of the classrooms, telling him she had been shot and was bleeding to death.
Ruiz was detained, had his gun taken away, and was escorted off the scene, according to McCraw. Mireles later died of her wounds.
Calls for Arredondo to resign or be fired have persisted.
Emotions Erupt at City Council
Wednesday’s announcement came one day after the Uvalde City Council held a special meeting in which community members and relatives of victims voiced their anger and demanded accountability.
“Who are you protecting?” Asked Jasmine Cazares, sister of Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old student who was shot. “Not my sister. The parents? No. You’re too busy putting them in handcuffs.”
Much of the anger was directed toward Arredondo, who was not present at the meeting but was elected to the city council on May 7, just over two weeks before the massacre.
“We are having to beg ya’ll to do something to get this man out of our faces,” said the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old victim. “We can’t see that gunman. That gunman got off easy. We can’t take our frustrations out on that gunman. He’s dead. He’s gone. … Ya’ll need to put yourselves in our shoes, and don’t say that none of ya’ll have, because I guarantee you if any of ya’ll were in our shoes, ya’ll would have been pulling every string that ya’ll have to get this man off the council.”
One woman demanded the council refuse to grant Arredondo the leave of absence he had requested, pointing out that if he fails to attend three consecutive meetings the council can vote him out for abandoning his office.
“What you can do right now is not give him, if he requests it, a leave of absence,” she said. “Don’t give him an out. We don’t want him. We want him out.”
After hearing from the residents, the council voted unanimously not to approve the leave of absence.
On Tuesday, Uvalde’s mayor announced that Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, saying no students or teachers should have to return to it after what happened.
We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.
Texas Public Safety Director Says Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was An “Abject Failure”
New footage shows officers prepared to engage the shooter one hour before they entered the classroom.
Seventy-Seven Deadly Minutes
Nearly a month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, evidence has emerged indicating that police were prepared to engage the shooter within minutes of arriving, but chose to wait over an hour.
The shooting at Robb Elementary began at 11:33 a.m., and within three minutes 11 officers are believed to have entered the school, according to surveillance and body camera footage obtained by KVUE and the Austin American Statesman.
District Police Chief Pete Arredondo reportedly called a landline at the police department at 11:40 a.m. for help.
“It’s an emergency right now,” he said. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot… They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now. It’s all pistols.”
At 11:52 a.m., however, the footage shows multiple officers inside the school armed with at least two rifles and one ballistic shield.
Law enforcement did not enter the adjoined classrooms to engage the shooter until almost an hour later, at 12:50 p.m. During that time, one officer’s daughter was inside the classrooms and another’s wife, a teacher, reportedly called him to say she was bleeding to death.
Thirty minutes before law enforcement entered the classrooms, the footage shows officers had four ballistic shields in the hallway.
Frustrated Cops Want to Go Inside
Some of the officers felt agitated because they were not allowed to enter the classrooms.
One special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting started, then immediately asked, “Are there still kids in the classrooms?”
“It is unknown at this time,” another officer replied.
“Ya’ll don’t know if there’s kids in there?” The agent shot back. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”
“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other officer responded.
According to an earlier account by Arredondo, he and the other officers tried to open the doors to the classrooms, but found them both locked and waited for a master key to arrive. But surveillance footage suggests that they never tried to open the doors, which a top Texas official has confirmed were never actually locked.
One officer has told reporters that within minutes of the police response, there was a Halligan bar, which firefighters use to break down locked doors, on-site, but it was never used.
At a special State Senate committee hearing Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” and “antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said. “The officers have weapons, the children had none.”